During my first pilgrimage to India I had the great blessing of going with a group of Ananda devotees led by Nayaswamis Durga and Vidura. Having never been to India before, I was deeply grateful to have their divine friendship throughout our travels.

Our pilgrimage began at the Ananda Gurgaon Ashram and a satsang with Swami Kriyananda. Swamiji gave our pilgrimage group the advice, “Close your eyes and open your hearts to India’s spiritual vibrations.”

Taking the spirit of Ananda and Swamiji with us we embarked on our great adventure. One of our pilgrimage stops was a satsang with Swami Jnanananda Giri in Dehradun, near the Himalayan foothills.

Swami Jnanananda was a great saint who was highly advanced in Self-realization (and I believe became a Master in his own right). Some people knew him as the “Swiss Yogi who never returned home.”

When he was three years old his father died of tuberculosis. Because his mother had to fend and provide for herself and her son, she yearned for him to become a director of a bank. She thought he could control the flow of money and take charge of his destiny.

But Swami Jnanananda had a different idea about how to take charge of his destiny.

After reading the Autobiography of a Yogi and learning about kriya yoga, he left Switzerland at the age of 23 determined to find his guru in India. It was a three-month overland journey through Italy, Greece, Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan.

Upon arriving in India he was met by border patrol. They asked him his reason for his visit. With soul conviction he responded, “To find my guru!” The Indian officer understood intuitively that this man was on “Man’s eternal quest.” He stamped his passport and welcomed him to the country!

He never left India for the rest of his life.

During our satsang with Swami Jnanananda, I tuned into his consciousness and caught a wave of God’s bliss flowing through him. I started to smile as a blissful feeling engulfed me. As I was laughing lightly to myself, he turned to me and said, “Ananda.”

It was a very sacred experience for me. I realized he was not making a personal comment about me. Rather in that moment he was acknowledging God’s joy that was in all life, including me. I was deeply moved by the divine contact through Swami Jnanananda.

The experience reminded me of a song by Swami Kriyananda called “What is Love?”:

Are the clouds mindless after all?
Or is joy all Nature’s theme?

Could joy be all Nature’s theme? I was reminded of this truth during a recent camping trip Dharmadevi and I took outside of Sedona. We camped by a small creek and every night we went to sleep with the sound of crickets. (An aside: Someone years ago recorded crickets and slowed down the audio to find they sounded like a chorus of angels.)

As I heard the crickets one night, I remembered Swami Kriyananda’s advice and his lyrics. “My God”, I thought, “Joy really is all nature’s theme!” That is what Swami Jnanananda was saying to me when he said, “Ananda.”

The next time you are in nature (or in the presence of a saint’s divine nature), take the time to slow down, be silent, and listen.

You just may hear a chorus of angels singing in your heart, mind, and soul: “Ananda, Ananda, Ananda….joy, joy, ever new joy!”

Joy to you!
Nayaswami Narayan